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2016 Greater New Jersey Annual Conference

May 22-24 in Wildwood, New Jersey.

Officiating bishop: John R. Schol

Guest speakers: Robin DiAngelo, consultant on racial and social justice issues. 

Memorable points or quotes by speakers:

In the episcopal address, Bishop John R. Schol led the conference in imagining the church with a God-sized vision. He outlined our progress on Greater New Jersey’s Strategic Plan and addressed the church’s struggle with disagreements. His message of unity focused on the strength of our work together in mission and laid out a plan for Hope Centers that will spring out of our A Future With Hope ministries, which has rebuilt 237 homes with the help of 11,131 volunteers from 44 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. The new Hope Centers will engage community leaders and the church in partnership for community development and human services. Bishop Schol called the conference to imagine 100 Hope Centers across the Greater New Jersey Conference.

We have strengthened our foundation and assets under management that will grow $5 million three years ago to more than $34 million this year. With an imagination far exceeding what we see, our new mission and resource center came in slightly under budget and the $5 million project is paid for. The new facility is already creating mission and ministry opportunities and will be partnering with Drew University as a satellite campus offering seminary courses.

Memorable quotes from Bishop Schol:

“Sometimes the church is too familiar with what it is rather than what God is calling it to be.”

“Can you imagine a church that sees its neighbors as parishioners and is in ministry with those who are homeless, hungry, incarcerated?”

“Imagination doesn’t begin with what we know but what we don’t know. It doesn’t begin in the day but in the night”

“All of my life I have received images and phrases and messages that reinforced white privilege. I am not living with the fullness of who God created me to be. The images, voices, and messages we have received have damaged us, resulting in a very narrow worldview. But there’s good news. We don’t have to continue to live that way. We have a God who is a big God and is ready to work with us.”

Robin DiAngelo, a consultant on racial and social justice issues, spoke to the conference on imagining a world without racism.

Memorable quotes from DiAngelo:

“When was the first time you had a teacher of the same race as you? How often did it happen? When did you first have a teacher of a different race? How often did this happen and why is it important?”

“We believe that to be complicit with racism and to be a good person is mutually exclusive.”

"This idea that we are color-blind does not hold up because we see racist systems at work across every institution. By every measure, across every institution, there is inequality.”

The Rev. Virginia Samuel Cetuk of Drew Theological School led the Service of Remembrance, sharing her personal trials of loss.

Memorable quotes from Samuel Cetuk:

“Time doesn’t heal all wounds, it’s what we do with the time.”

Andrew Ryoo of Greenhouse Church was one of a handful of young leaders who shared personal testimonies of church plants, innovative ministries, and mission.

Memorable quotes from Ryoo:

“I believe that the church can support its leaders by encouraging risk. Not necessarily by making risk less risky.” 

Main actions enacted by the conference:

An offering for the Mission Fund was taken during the ordination service and more than $63,000 was collected to help eliminate death from malaria and rebuild homes for people with damage from Superstorm Sandy.

After a review of the Maintenance to Mission plan, the 2017 budget was passed, which again decreased the Shared Ministries Budget for four years, saving the church $1.4 million. In an amendment to the resolutions presented about church closures, the body agreed to study how best to care for cemeteries associated with churches that can no longer care for them. The recommendation to change Rule No. 55 to allow the Committee on Nominations to nominate chairpersons for agencies passed after discussion.  The conference also voted to make the journal available digitally on the web site and discontinue the practice of distributing it on cd-rom.

The conference reaffirmed the direction of GNJ to make disciples and grow vital congregations. It affirmed the goals of our strategic plan and our continued resourcing through coaching, PaCE groups, the Laity Academy, Team Vital. These goals and resourcing align with the four areas of focus as follows. 

Bishop Schol announced Greater New Jersey’s plan to open Hope Center’s across the conference to address the needs of the community and engage our congregations in mission. These Hope Centers will be developed using strategies taught through our resourcing of Communities of Hope which uses the foundation of Communities of Shalom. 

The centers will also be supported by the ongoing work of A Future With Hope, the non-profit organization started by the conference to address the needs of Superstorm Sandy survivors.  As Sandy reconstruction work starts to wind down, A Future With Hope will channel its resources in other forms of community development through the creation of Hope Centers. 

Greater New Jersey continued its $12 million multi-year Mission Fund Campaign which will raise $1.8 million for Imagine No Malaria. 

Greater New Jersey affirmed and celebrated our leadership resourcing opportunities including:

  • Coaching: A resource that helps clergy lead a congregation towards greater vitality. A coach walks alongside clergy to assist in achieving leadership goals and action plans.
  • PaCE groups: (Pursuing Clergy Excellence) are peer learning groups that give clergy a way to connect; feeding off of one another through collaboration.
  • Laity Leadership Academy: Providing assistance and guidance in aiding lay leaders in strategic planning for small groups, a new approach to the worship committee, practical tips for preaching and advance social media. Lay leaders work together to develop and implement an action plan to take back to their church.

Creating New and Renewed Congregations

Twenty-four new faith communities have been started since 2013. In the last 10 months, the conference has chartered a new Ghanaian congregation with more than 200 worshippers, engaged a second Egyptian faith community with over 60 worshippers, and collaborated with a group of young people preparing to launch Greenhouse, a new faith community that will be a second site of Calvary Korean Church.

To support our congregations and equip our leaders to become more vital, we have created Team Vital, an intensive, strategic, collaborative program that helps congregations create and implement an action plan for vitality. Team Vital uses five markers of vitality to assess ministry fruitfulness: worship, making new disciples, small groups, mission, and giving.

Videos of making new disciples and new faith communities included: 

GNJ Connectional Ministries Director of New Disciples, Trey Wince, explaining how to make a new disciple.

The Rev. Hoon Kim exploring the reasons for and challenges of church planting and the creation of Greenhouse Church, a new faith community in the conference.

These initiatives reinforced our mission to call and equip spiritual leaders to make disciples and grow vital congregations to transform the world.  They also align with our strategic plan 2018 goals to:  

         Increase percentage of churches growing in worship attendance to 51%.

  • Start 90 new faith communities.
  • Decrease the number of worshipers it takes to make a new profession of faith to 15.
  • Increase the percentage of worshippers in small groups to 75%. Achieved.
  • Increase the number of young adults in small groups to 3,200.
  • Increase racial ethnic members to 25%.
  • Increase the percentage of worshippers engaged in mission to 40%. Achieved.
  • Increase local church dollars spent on mission to 17% of their budget. Achieved.
  • Raise $12 million for the Mission Campaign.

Number of people ordained, commissioned or received into associate membership, and average age: 23 people, average age of 40.

Number of people retired: 32

Membership stands at 89,224, down 1,494 from the previous year.

Worship attendance stands at 43,651, down 1,538.

Church school attendance stands at 11,447, down 644.

Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2015, 2,427, down 111 from in 2014.

Adults and young adults in small groups for 2015, 25,502, up from 1,019 in 2014.

Worshippers engaged in mission for 2015 at 21,954, up from 2,931 in 2014.

Josh Kinney, editorial manager, Greater New Jersey Conference